Integrating IT Security with DevSecOps: Best Practices

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As DevOps continues to evolve, security practices are constantly changing and evolving as well. By integrating DevOps practices with IT security, also known as DevSecOps, enterprises can create a strong chain of defense around their most important applications and assets from the development process through to operations and deployment.

Many organizations are moving toward DevSecOps as an integrated approach to software development and security. In addition to applying security measures throughout an application’s lifecycle, it is also critical to integrate both teams to speed up development while maintaining high levels of application security. By integrating DevOps with IT security, enterprises can protect their systems against vulnerabilities while also saving time, money, and resources.

What Is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps, or development security operations is a hybrid approach to developing and deploying applications that incorporates security into every stage of development. This means adding security tools early on, so they can alert teams when issues arise. It also means incorporating automated testing techniques so software is more secure before it hits production. 

Why care about DevSecOps?

Because traditional deployment practices haven’t kept up with emerging security threats, consumers expect higher standards from organizations handling their sensitive data. Moreover, organizations have made big investments in cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and Internet of Things (IoT)—and are now sitting on valuable data they need to protect at all costs.

But for these new technologies to reach their full potential, companies must be able to keep up with threat detection without sacrificing speed or performance. That means implementing fast, efficient processes for securing production environments before applications go live. 

What does it look like in practice? 

A couple of examples of DevSecOps in practice include implementing application whitelisting and implementing automated code analysis.

Implementing application whitelisting 

This strategy allows only authorized software to run on a computer system; it blocks malicious programs by rejecting any code that hasn’t been expressly approved by an administrator. In addition to providing more protection than antivirus solutions, application whitelisting eliminates false positives, which means admins spend less time managing security alerts.

And many companies find that after implementing application whitelisting, their adoption rates skyrocket because employees welcome greater control over their personal computers. 

Implementing automated code analysis 

Code analysis tools can check applications for common programming errors, like whether they have adequate logging in place or are vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks. These programs also allow developers to fix issues before an application is deployed into production—avoiding potentially embarrassing mistakes that might put an organization at risk. 

Also read: Best DevOps Tools & Software of 2021

Challenges to Address Before Implementing DevSecOps

A DevOps environment relies on automation as a key enabler. By automating activities such as security, operations personnel are freed to focus on other matters of greater importance, while ensuring continuous compliance with regulations.

This process is known as compliance automation or compliance as code. However, some challenges must be addressed to implement DevSecOps in an enterprise.

Lack of integration between DevOps and IT security tools 

Organizations commonly use different tools to deploy changes into production and detect vulnerabilities; one toolset manages business risk while another watches for computer issues. Integration between DevOps tools and security tools allows for the automation of many security tasks that would otherwise be manual.

Software development lifecycle/pipeline practices 

Developers should follow secure coding best practices when writing their code. These include adherence to standards such as ISO/IEC 27002, NIST 800-53, SANS 20 Critical Controls, etc.; incorporation of features like StackGuard to counter buffer overflow attacks; and reviewing critical areas of code during the testing phase using static source code analysis.

Issue detection/response mechanism 

An issue tracker system can serve as an effective way of monitoring security alerts generated from SIEM (security information and event management) products, IDS/IPS (intrusion detection systems/intrusion prevention systems) devices, and any other alerting solution within your organization. Having an automated response that handles both false positives and potential risks quickly will ensure you don’t miss important events. 

Defining ownership 

Allocating ownership of certain aspects of product delivery and operation responsibilities is necessary so teams know where to go if they have questions or want to make changes in their area(s) of responsibility. Ownership entails assigning responsibilities including incident response and threat hunting opportunities (i.e., identifying network vulnerabilities and determining the most optimal system monitoring processes). 

Security mindset 

Change is inevitable, no matter how well or diligently an organization follows industry trends. To remain effective and minimize the attack surface, organizations need to adjust when changes happen in their environments, such as a data breach, mergers/acquisitions, or even changes resulting from government directives. 

Why is IT Security Integral to the DevSecOps Cycle?

DevSecOps was created as a result of developers, operations, and infosec teams working together. Without IT security’s involvement, the DevSecOps cycle can’t be successful. Security must be involved early in the development process, which allows for better security testing, more accountability, and stronger communication between all teams involved.

This type of collaboration is made possible by defining who will be responsible for what tasks at various stages of software development.

QA (quality assurance) has always been an integral part of software development, but DevSecOps requires an even greater focus on QA-related activities such as penetration testing and vulnerability assessments. When implemented correctly, these can greatly reduce incidents like data breaches, compliance violations, and downtime—all things that cost companies time and money every day.

Also read: A Guide to DevSecOps: What is it and Why is it Required?

IT Security and DevSecOps Integration Best Practices

The following are eight best practices for integrating DevSecOps with IT Security:

Automate tools and processes

To maximize efficiency, security teams should automate tools and processes whenever possible, making it easier to quickly identify issues that need attention and reduce time spent on non-value-added tasks. 

Encourage culture change across organizations 

For any DevSecOps initiative to be successful, development and security professionals must work together as a cohesive team rather than as two distinct groups. 

Test early and often 

All new features or applications need to undergo rigorous testing throughout their development lifecycle, but ensuring that automated tests are written into requirements is especially critical when working in a DevSecOps environment. 

Communicate proactively 

Development and security teams should regularly communicate proactively about new features and code check-ins, identifying potential vulnerabilities before they can negatively impact an organization. 

Adopt static application security testing (SAST)

SAST looks for vulnerabilities in applications before they’re deployed by using a combination of automated code analysis and manual review to identify issues that can be exploited during runtime. SAST is often integrated into continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines to ensure critical security checks are done at each stage in development and deployment.

Adopt dynamic application security testing (DAST)

While static application security testing tools and scanners are good at identifying vulnerabilities, they only identify code-level flaws. In other words, they don’t take into account runtime behavior. DAST tools, on the other hand, use runtime information to dynamically identify weaknesses based on how an application is behaving in an actual production environment.

Adopt interactive application security testing (IAST)

IAST allows testers to execute scripts in an automated manner, offering a more scalable and streamlined approach to security testing than manual testing could ever achieve on its own.

It should be used as a complement to manual testing instead of a substitute. This is due, in part, to IAST’s inherently rigid structure—every script must follow predefined rules that dictate what software can be tested and how it should be configured.

Adopt application security testing as a service (ASTaaS)

This is another area where a shift to CI/CD will help strengthen your application security program. One way to implement such a model is by integrating ASTaaS into your CI/CD pipeline.

Rather than running your applications through an expensive third-party scanner after they’ve been delivered, integrate a scanner into your build pipeline, so vulnerabilities are identified while they’re still easy to fix. 

Future of DevSecOps in Enterprises

The future of IT security is in DevSecOps—but only for those enterprises that integrate security professionals and software developers into their development cycle. DevSecOps is crucial because it’s how organizations can prevent cyberattacks while still pushing updates, fixes, and new features at a rapid pace.

More than ever before, companies need to be able to constantly deliver value without sacrificing security. Without integrating DevSecOps, enterprises will continue to suffer from vulnerabilities that lead to risk exposures (which are easily detected by attackers). However, with DevSecOps procedures in place, businesses have a much better chance of thwarting cyberattacks before they succeed.

Read next: NetOps vs DevOps: Bringing Automation to the Network

Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi is an experienced B2B technology and finance writer and award-winning public speaker. He is the co-author of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook, and has written for various publications, including eWEEK, Enterprise Networking Planet, Tech Republic, eSecurity Planet, CIO Insight, Enterprise Storage Forum, IT Business Edge, Webopedia, Software Pundit, and Geekflare.

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